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Saturday, 22 of July of 2017

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Steven Universe – “Catch and Release”

“Duh, homegirl knows we’re gonna beat her into a green pancake.”

Steven Universe title cardSince the end of Season 1, when Lapis fused with Jasper to form Malachite, we haven’t had any real big plot developments regarding the Gem homeworld. Sure, Peridot’s been trying to get back there for a while (which is what spurred on the first bit of the episode here with her kidnapping of Steven), but Yellow Diamond has yet to make her big appearance, and there hasn’t been any other contact from the Gem homeworld.

What we do get in “Catch and Release,” however, is not a new bit of plot, but a quick line from “Jail Break” brought to the forefront.

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Steven Universe – “Sadie’s Song”

“This is not your daughter.”

Steven Universe title cardSteven Universe realize pretty quickly — more quickly than Adventure Time did — that its supporting cast is a key component of the series. Eric Thurm’s discussed this in his reviews at TV Club a bit (and with me in other conversations), but by giving us looks into the lives of the denizens of Beach City, Steven Universe gives us a reason to really care when some sort of cataclysmic Gem fight breaks out. It’d be one thing if Greg were really the town stand-in, but by showing us folks who are a few degrees removed from the Gems and their adventures, there are real stakes involved in anything that happens when it comes to the Gems fighting off scary things.

The show has elegantly done this with episodes like “Sadie’s Song” that doesn’t involve fusions or weapons or powers of any sort. Certainly the show can blend supporting cast episodes and all that Gem stuff — see last week’s super-effective and genuinely creepy “Nightmare Hospital” — but there’s always been something really great about the show taking a break to just show us a snippet of someone’s life that exists outside of it. Read more »


Anime Round-Up: April 21, 2013

Sorry for the delay on getting the post up this week. First was that I had a review for Defiance to file for TV.com for tomorrow (it’s not a bad show so far, you should check it out), and that took more time to write than I was anticipating.  The second reason for the delay is that Gargantia‘s new episode airs on Sundays, so I decided to pause so I could not quite be on a delay with that show. So, this week, Gargantia gets two episodes discussed (fitting, since they sort of form a two-parter of sorts). (I suppose I could wait until Monday to incorporate Flowers of Evil, but with Defiance on Monday nights, and me without screeners after the third episode, it’s probably not going to happen.

Don't fuck with Nakamura Flowers of Evil, Episode 2

One of the charms (if we can call it a charm)/horrors of Flowers of Evil is how stuck we are in Kasuga’s psyche. It’s not that we’re not exposed to other people in the series — there’s a whole school of them plus his family around him — it’s that we’re always experiencing and responding to them through Kasuga’s perspective. As a result, the overwhelming guilt and fear of being found out as the thief has real weight to it, perhaps more than I honestly expected the show to convey.

Surprisingly, Kasuga is prepared to come clean, at least to Saeki (no need for all that public shaming that would undoubtedly result). Sure, he’s doing it out of guilt and not a desire to actually do the right thing, though perhaps we’re splitting hairs here. And, in any case, it hardly matters since Nakamura binds him to a contract of black mail of who knows what. At first, it just seems like long bike rides through the mountains, but after pushing Kasuga into Saeki’s breasts as he attempts to apologize, she wants an essay on how he felt at that moment. Welcome to the circle of perversion that is Flowers of Evil. No clear why she wants it, but the glee with which she asks for it implies a decidedly sadistic streak, one that I’m willing to bet Nakamura may not be fully aware of it, or even happy with. Perhaps her loneliness will be solved by completing Kasuga’s corruption.

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Anime Round-Up: April 13, 2013

Flowers of Evil, “A Fateful Encounter” (Episode 1)

Nakamura retrieves her test

Likely to be the most controversial of the new shows in the spring season, Flowers of Evil is based on a manga series of the same name in which an isolated teen, Kasuga, ends up in some sort of blackmail scheme after an even more isolated classmate, Nakamura (at right), spots him grabbing the gym bag of their beautiful peer Sakei. I haven’t read the manga (though I have read a couple of reviews of the first volume — hence my basic understanding of the premise), so this isn’t one of those cases where I know how it’s all going to play out in advance.

However, the first episode is just a damn fine piece of work on its own, regardless of how things play out. The use of rotoscoping — yes, rotoscoping! — is the source of much of the controversy around the series. It departs from the style of manga in a pretty significant and obvious way, and the characters look decidedly unfinished and move in jerky ways that seems to somewhat defeat the point of the attempt at a realistic depiction of the series’s characters.

I call shenanigans on this perspective though. I have no ill will toward rotoscoping, and I find that it adds to the show’s aesthetic in a really delightful way. The town these teens live in is decaying and falling apart. Signs are broken, paint is peeling, plants have either died or growing unchecked in alleys, and rust abounds. It’s animated beautifully in stark contrast to the rotoscoped characters, and their unfinished animated nature feels, to me, to be a part of this degradation that surrounds them. Factor in that these characters are still trying to figure out their own identities and what love means (Kasuga refers to Sakei as both a “muse” and a “femme fatale” — someone who both inspires and destroys), and their rotoscoped “ugliness” feels fitting.

Sonically, the episode’s soundtrack adds to the unsettling nature of the episode with long, low volume tones underlying dialog. It creates, along with the episode’s slow pace, an odd sense of tension that is doesn’t actually feel resolved, unless we count the falling of Sakei’s bag from the shelf as the climax of that tension, and I certainly would. Even if the narrative doesn’t end up delivering anything worthwhile, aesthetically, I there’s a lot to engage with in the show.

After the jump, two mecha series are discussed.

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Justified – “Decoy”

“Holy shit. They circled the wagons.”

Justified TitlecardLES: It was a highly anticipated episode of Justified this week, with many of our fellow critics who’d seen the episode in advance – Alan Sepinwall, Ryan McGee and James Poniewozik to name a few – excitedly trumpeting “Decoy” as the best installment of the season, if not the series. And for the most part, I would say that this was an episode that delivered what it promised, with the U.S. Marshals and the Detroit Mafia turning Harlan County into their playground for an hour in the race to claim Drew Thompson as their prize. This was yet another episode that played to my appreciation of the show’s ability to deliver scenes where a conversation takes place and at any moment, somebody could decide to draw a weapon and it all goes to hell. There’s the glorious state of limbo as the marshal caravan is trapped by Colton’s explosives, the emotional needling Drew sends Raylan’s way all episode, and the ruthless stream of dick-sucking references Nicky Augustine throws at Ava. So many good scenes, I could have watched an entire bottle/vignette episode set at any one of them.

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Justified – “Get Drew”

Justified TitlecardSo, yeah, it’s been sort of insane for two of our regular Justified roundtable contributors, so much so that some folks are weeks behind (it wasn’t Noel, Noel stays on top of Harlan County, guys). In any case, Les managed to catch up and Greg Boyd offered to fill in for that slacker Cory this week to discuss the fact that, well, Drew Thompson has been on Justified for a while.

And it wasn’t, as Noel predicted, an older Raylan trying to close a time loop. Read more »


The Good Wife – “Red Team / Blue Team”

“I think I was just mugged.”

The Good Wife Title Card s3Maybe I’m just feeling off, but this episode certainly felt a bit messy. But then maybe it was that out out of left field kiss and the Elsbeth and Eli subplot that ended up distracting me from the otherwise solid core of the episode.

Which I feel bad about because the on-going L-G stuff was not only interesting but pushed characters in new directions, and the case of the week, while having a couple of missteps, allows the L-G stuff to have a bit more room to breathe than it might otherwise have had.

And the episode continued CBS shows not only having Kyle MacLachlan show up, but a show including the phrase “Red Team” in an episode title. Read more »


Justified – “Kin”

“You got a saw? You’re gonna need a saw.”

Justified Titlecard

NOEL: So, last week, Cory was all, “Best episode of the season.” I was sort of hesitant about that proclamation. But, Cory, if you’d like to make that statement again, I would not argue with you.

Twisty-turny procedural elements fed into the big arc about Drew Thompson. We’re closer to finding him, but only in the sense that we know he’s in Harlan, and that everyone under the sun is looking for this guy. Oh, and Ellen Mae is safe and sound. And was shocking violence and hill people. HILL PEOPLE, Y’ALL.

What say you, gents? Where do you guys want to start with this?

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Justified – “This Bird Has Flown”

“There’s money in fightin’ chickens, Raylan. You think about it…”

Justified TitlecardCORY: Gentlemen, I’m doubly happy this week. Not only is good to be back involved in our Justified chats, but it’s good to be talking about what is the best episode of the season to-date. “The Bird Has Flown” is driven by two stories with very different emotional beats, but are about some of the same things. While Raylan and Rachel attempt to track Lindsay and her husband down in what amounts to one of the show’s best procedural chases in recent memory, Ava struggles with how to handle the aimless and desperate Ellen May. Raylan and Rachel’s pursuit result in a few nice scenes for the show’s most underused character and Ava’s conflicted feelings helped Ellen May seem quite sympathetic. And most impressively, Taylor Elmore’s script gave both stories the same thematic center, with Raylan and Ava learning how to let go of people (and in Raylan’s case, money) a little easier  — even if they’re forced to learn those lessons.

What are your opening thoughts about this week’s offering?
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The Good Wife – “The Seven Day Rule”

“What can be given can be quickly taken away.”

The Good Wife Title Card s3I don’t know that I can recall the last time I’ve seen Alicia as happy as she was when Diane and Will sat her down and informed her that they were offering her an equity partner position at the firm. And it was a moment her elation for us, the audience, too. Alicia’s done a great deal of work for the firm, and to have it rewarded in this way is a big deal. (While we could say she’s made sacrifices for the firm, I’d be hesitant to even suggest that as, really, her job has never seemed to cause a massive strain her personal life, that whole Will thing aside).

It was all downhill from there. Read more »